Dad's memory kept alive for his boys

By James Fuller

"I can't believe it's gone so fast, it's unbelievable.

The twins are five now and starting school. It's incredible and Josh would've loved to be here to see all of it."

Jasmine Barry, a young mother-of-three, is talking about the night that changed her life. It was a night when a young couple's dreams of a lifetime together were tragically ripped apart by an accident which ensured their newly-born twins would never know their dad.



It has been nearly five years since Miss Barry was woken in the early hours of the morning to the devastating news her partner, Josh Garner, 24, had been killed in a crash at Tauranga's Maungatapu roundabout.


He had lost control of his car as he exited the roundabout and crashed into a power pole. It was a tragedy compounded by the fact two others, Mr Garner's 14-year-old sister Samantha and her friend Kayla Rose, 14, also died.

The couple's twin boys, Reegan and Rylie, were barely 4 months old.

The date was June 15, 2008 and, as the five-year anniversary nears, Miss Barry said she wanted to talk about her family's attempts to come to terms with the accident and the amazing man she lost.

"Coming up to Christmas is hard. I thought it was getting easier but then this year, with it being five years, was really tough."

She said her partner of two years came back to her in many ways. Seemingly small things acted as emotional triggers.

"I was making macaroni cheese, which was one of Josh's favourites but he always used to like it with breadcrumbs. Well I couldn't find any breadcrumbs and I just started crying. I burst into tears. You feel pretty stupid about it afterwards."

Other emotive moments included spotting cars that resembled Mr Garner's Holden Commodore.

"Josh's car was an unusual colour, between burnt orange and red. You don't see many around like that but when you do I find myself staring, wondering if it's his car. Of course it's not."

Places the couple visited while Miss Garner was pregnant also held painful memories, such as family trips to Miranda and Whitianga.

But it was recently lending out the pairs of bassinets and car seats which Mr Garner had bought for his twins - and only having one car seat returned - which had really upset her. "Josh didn't have much time to buy things for the boys so you do get attached to the things he was able to get for them. Fatherhood was something Josh had looked forward to and he was so happy about having the twins."

Growing up without a dad has been hard on the twins, who turned 5 in February.

"At school they had to draw family pictures and they told the teacher they didn't have a daddy but she made them draw one anyway. Sometimes it's tough on them but they understand they are a little different to other kids.

"At daycare they made Father's Day gifts that we took over and placed on Josh's grave so he got to enjoy them. We also have picnics at 'daddy's house' where the boys share stories and tell him all about what we've been up to.

"They ask questions about Josh. We have pictures of him around the house and they know he's their dad. I made them each scrapbooks which have photos in, as well as his (funeral) service sheet and a pocket with all the newspaper articles for when they're bigger."

The twins' upbringing had been made harder because Rylie was born with the congenital deformity club foot.

"Both legs are in a cast completely up to his hip," said Miss Barry. "He got his first cast when he was 2 weeks old and has still got them today."

Rylie has undergone six operations on his legs and will undergo a seventh within the next fortnight. The youngster has his casts changed at hospital every week. "With his legs locked at 90 degrees he looks like a little gorilla but he gets about."

Miss Barry said she enjoyed seeing how the boys had inherited their dad's interests, with Reegan loving motorsports such as drifting and Rylie being into motorbikes.

The 28-year-old described her former partner, a computer programmer with NZ Windows, as a quiet man who had a cheeky side.

"Josh was definitely a family guy, he loved his brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces to bits.

"I already had a son, Jayden, from a previous relationship when we got together and he had taken him on as his own.

"He was amazing. Pretty much from the get-go he told me he wanted a family and we were looking for a place in Hamilton when it happened."

Miss Barry lived in Welcome Bay for a year with Mr Garner but now lives in Hamilton. She has remained in close contact with Mr Garner's family saying they were a source of support, especially Josh's brother Daniel.

"Daniel has been wonderful. If we need anything I know I can rely on him. He's really made the effort to come to every one of the boys' birthdays."

The family will be travelling to Tauranga on June 15 to visit Mr Garner's grave. He was laid to rest in Pyes Pa Cemetery beside his sister Samantha.

"Each year we release some balloons on the anniversary, either in a park here (in Hamilton) or at the cemetery. This year we'll be going across to Tauranga. Then at night, for dinner, we always have macaroni cheese. With breadcrumbs of course."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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